How to Clean Stuffed Animals and Dolls


Courtney asked: I have a stuffed doll I got when I was little and I’m not sure how to wash it. It has yarn for hair and I don’t want to ruin it. Please help!

Whether it’s a keepsake from your childhood or your child’s doll, they will eventually need to be cleaned. Fortunately, this is an easy task and can be completed in the washing machine with a few simple protective steps.

Washing Machine Cleaning

You Will Need:

  • Woolite or laundry detergent
  • Pillow case
  • Rubber band or string
  • Old panty hose

Steps to Clean the Doll:

  1. Prepare the doll by removing the clothing and repairing any weak or damaged areas.
  2. If the doll has corn silk hair, place a piece of nylon (12-15 inches long) over the head to hold the hair in place. This will keep it from frizzing after it has dried.
  3. Place the doll inside of the pillow case and close the end with a rubber band or tie it closed with string. Most stuffed animals can be placed directly into the water with no protective covering.
  4. Wash as normal on the gentle cycle with warm or cold water.
  5. After the washing is complete, remove the doll from the pillow case.
  6. Straighten any hair or areas that were rustled around.
  7. Allow the doll to air dry completely.

Cleaning with Baking Soda

You Will Need:

  • Large bag
  • Baking soda
  • Small bin or tub
  • Small cloth or sponge
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Towel

Steps to Clean the Doll:

  1. Baking soda can be used to clean animals and dolls with both wet and dry methods.
  2. To clean a stuffed animal without wetting it, sprinkle the surface with baking soda.
  3. Allow it to set for an hour.
  4. Wipe the fur (with some force) with a towel or soft cloth to remove the dust and dirt.
  5. Cleaning a doll or stuffed animal with baking soda and water allows for a great opportunity for your child to clean their own doll and give it a “bath.”
  6. Fill a bowl with water and add some baking soda. A bin can also be used to better simulate a small bathtub.
  7. Have your child place their doll into the water and wash them with the water.
  8. If the water splashes onto the floor, leave it to clean the floor as well.
  9. When the doll is cleaned, rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  10. Allow to dry.
  11. Mop the floor to remove the spilled and splashed water.
  12. Enjoy an clean toy and a clean floor!

Additional Tips and Advice

  • To speed up the drying process, place the doll or stuff animal near a dehumidifier.
  • Some toys can tolerate the heat of the dryer, or can be dried on a no-heat setting. Add a pair of clean shoes to help toss the toy around and “beat” out any dirt.
  • Check the seams before and after cleaning to tend to any weak or torn areas.
  • Stuffed animals can also be brushed clean to remove dirt build-up.


  1. Joyce says:

    I have a rubber doll from the late 50’s. The doll has darkened with age. How do I get the rubber to lighten up again?

  2. Jade says:

    What about dolls that can’t be submerged in water? How do these instructions relate to surface cleaning? I have vintage Cabbage Patch from 1984, one of which came to me apparently having been exposed to oil or grease. I can’t submerge that doll; it would mold before it dried. So where are the SURFACE cleaning instructions?

  3. Melanie says:

    The surface cleaning instructions are in the second section of the article. The baking soda can absorb the oil or grease, as well as dirt. Allow the powder to sit for an hour or overnight and repeat if needed.

  4. V Mileti says:

    How would you recommend cleaning a big Winnie the Pooh (bigger than a toddler)?
    I did try & hope I did not ruin it: dishwashing liquid on a microfiber towel. Rubbed it in, wiped/rinsed with a different microfiber and left it out when it was very sunny.
    But, it does not look fluffy now.


  5. Melanie says:

    There could be a couple causes. It’s possible that you used a bit too much soap and now there is some soap residue on the fur. If that’s the case, use a wet cloth to rinse the bear again. It sounds like you too great care though, so if you think that you did rinse the soap well and feel that the fur is just matted from the cleaning, then you probably just need to re-fluff the fur. To do that, first try just brushing it gently with a soft brush, such as a nail brush. If that isn’t enough, you could toss it in the dryer briefly on air only (if it doesn’t have any parts that could be damaged) – no heat. Another option is to wrap a thin cloth over the handheld hose on a vacuum and use the suction to fluff the fur.
    Source: – How to Fluff Out Stuffed Animal Hair After Washing
    Source: Mamapedia – Getting Softness Back to Plush Toy After Spin in Dryer

  6. Carlinda says:

    I have a doll that my husband gave to me in 1968 when he was in Vietnam. It is dressed in white and silver and lace. Her clothes are attached to her body, but have turned yellowish and brown. How do I get her clothes to be white again? There is no way I can’t put her in water or in a washing machine. Please help.

  7. Melanie says:

    You can try cleaning the dress as you would upholstery. Sponge the dress with cleaning solution, blot up the excess liquid, then sponge with water to rinse, and blot again to remove the liquid. To find a good cleaning solution, use the article How to Wash Dingy Whites. A commonly recommended cleaning solution is bleach, however that may be too harsh for the delicate doll dress. Instead, you may want to start with the Non-Bleach Method and just sponge the solution on rather than soaking it. I’d suggest that you start by just trying to wash it with a laundry detergent safe for delicates, such as Woolite, but since the dress has turned from white to brown, it will probably require a stronger treatment, possibly even the Bleach Method.
    However, you may not want to let the dress dry in the sun unless it’s indoors through a window. Even if you cover the doll’s face and arms, the heat outdoors might have some adverse effect. If you can dry it indoors where it will be cooler, that’d be best.
    As a last resort, you might be able to take her to a doll maker or doll hospital to have a new dress made for her.

  8. Jaime says:

    I have a stuffed animal that has also a wind up music box type thing in it. It has a mildew smell and is filthy. How could I clean it! Thank you!!!

  9. Melanie says:

    Use steps 1-4 of the baking soda method. The baking soda will absorb the dirt and odor. Repeat the process as many times as needed for the toy to be fully dirt and odor free.

  10. Lisa says:

    Believe you me, this is not a big deal. I have quite a bit of experience with toys and dolls with gorgeous long hair especially! Now, with stuffed animals, you’re going to love this one. Get some ammonia and mix up a bowl filled half and half with water and ammonia. Get a white wash rag and dip it in, then wring it out so it doesn’t drip, and proceed to bathe the stuffed animal as in a sponge bath. Don’t be scared, it’s not alive, and although ammonia has a whitening effect, it’s not like bleach. Although it smells in the beginning when you’re finished, try to suspend the stuffed toy by the tail, ears, or another inconspicuous area in direct sunlight until it’s dry…Then smell…It’s freshness is perfect. Ammonia kills germs and any bugs. After a couple hours drip-drying in the sun, go ahead and put it in the dryer on high heat, but watch it…This will fluff he fluff and continue killing odors and bugs. Most fluff just needs to be shaken to restore it’s original fluff look; brushing it may change the fluff’s appearance.

    Now, for those ugly Barbie dolls and the like. On your knees again over by the tub, get out the shampoo and conditioner and a fine comb or easy brush; you will know which one to use! Gently shampoo, then with the doll on her back, put a lot of conditioner on her hair and proceed to comb out the tangles, and within a few minutes you will see her hair style coming back. Now, it’s not going to be perfect, the ends will look like they need trimming, so trim them a little while the hair is wet. Keep the hair flat against the bottom of the tub, turning the doll as needed. Rinse and don’t dry with a towel. While the hair is still soaking wet, grab the doll by the legs and swing the water out of the hair…Take a look…Smooth hair in place…Go ahead and style it back to the original pony tail or whatever…Trim as needed. Then, place either flat rubber bands around the very bottom of the hair and around her neck, holding the hair in place until it’s dry, or use some Scotch tape the same way. Blow drying works and so does the hot curling iron and a little hair spray before using the iron. Voila! Be proud of yourself; you are an official doll restorer. Now, hide the finished doll until next Christmas…Don’t throw it away!

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